"Undergraduate, honours and PhD studies are imperative to becoming a medical researcher. I feel my degree has prepared me well for the practical and academic skills required to become a researcher."
- Emma Cazaly, graduated student
Bachelor of Medical Research (BMedRes)
Emma Cazaly became interested in the field of medical research in high school after experiencing first hand, through her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, the pressures and challenges illnesses such as cancer place on a family.
Developing the skills to understand different types of cancers and their causes became a high priority for Emma. So when the Bachelor of Medical Research was made available at the University of Tasmania, she enrolled.
“When I studied the Bachelor of Medical Research I majored in Biochemistry and Neuroscience. I enjoyed the practical side of my degree, particularly cell biology, histology (the study of tissues under the microscope) and biochemistry. I graduated in 2007 and completed my honours in 2008 in neuroscience.”
Emma's pursuit for knowledge and her passion in this field didn’t stop there. Following her completion of the Bachelor of Medical Research with Honours, Emma began a PhD in cancer research.
“I am currently studying cancer epigenetics for my PhD. Epigenetics is a relatively new field of science, focusing on the molecular environment surrounding DNA and how genes are switched on and off in health and disease. Diet, our environment, random factors and our underlying genetic code can affect epigenetic patterns.
The contribution of each factor is not fully understood. My project investigates the influence of genetic factors on establishing these epigenetic patterns and how mutations can alter these patterns and predispose people to certain cancers.
I think the University of Tasmania is a fantastic place for further study. The facilities here at the Medical Science Precinct are state-of-the-art. We have a wide range of courses and degrees and world class academics. The student to teacher/supervisor ratio here is also a lot more favourable than other universities and I’ve always had excellent resources throughout my undergrad and PhD studies.
Recently I’ve been working with Dr Adele Holloway on the ‘Treasure Project’, which enables medical, science and paramedic students to be surveyed about their research experience. This allows us to improve their student experience by assessing the enablers and barriers associated with undergraduate research, influencing positive changes to the curriculum of the programs.”
As Emma nears the end of her PhD work, she is preparing for an exciting adventure to the other side of the world where she will be working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM). FIMM hold a strong working relationship with the University of Helsinki and are at the cutting edge of medical research.
“The Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland focusses on several complex diseases, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and various cancers. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to analyse genetic and epigenetics data on a range of phenotypes and examine the epigenetic profiles of twins discordant for disease. I am eager to develop my research skills in the field of epigenetics while also gaining experience supervising PhD students at FIMM.”
Reflecting on her journey, Emma believes strong support and mentoring from University of Tasmania lecturers, combined with collaboration and networking skills fostered at national and international conferences are at the core of her success.
“I value the support I received during my studies at the University of Tasmania very highly. The lecturers are attentive and helpful and they really care about your journey and success. This not only helped me get the most value out of my experience and improve my skills as a researcher but also inspired me to constantly strive for excellence.
When research is done well and is collaborative it is very exciting and fun. That’s when you start achieving things, when everyone is comfortable working together and helping each other out. Feeling free to ask questions and investigate ideas is important. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can work together. These are global skills you can take anywhere in the world.”